Its starting to taste a lot like Christmas, and grocery stores across Australia are heaving with crowds of shoppers piling their trollies high with festive food and drink.
But it is easy to get carried away with shopping to excess, leading to lots of food waste before December is done. To help curb your Christmas food waste mountain, plan well and prepare lists to prevent shopping on impulse.
Careful storage will ensure that food is kept in the best possible condition for as long as possible to minimise waste.
No-waste food storage tips
- Clean out your pantry and fridge before Christmas and plan to use up existing ingredients to make space for Christmas cooking
- Try to preserve power by reminding family members to minimise the opening and closing of fridges and freezers.
- Defrost meat and seafood in the fridge, rather than on the kitchen bench. Bacteria is active when the food temperature is 5 - 60 degrees Celsius (the so-called danger zone).
Here’s how to keep festive food fresh:
Wrap ham in a clean cotton cloth or ham bag rinsed in a solution of two cups water and two tablespoons white vinegar. Rinse out or replace the wrap every three days. Slice leftover ham off the bone, wrap it in beeswax wraps or place in a sealed container, and store in the fridge. It will be OK for 3-5 days and can be frozen for up to 1-2 months.
Remove the stuffing and store it separately as it has shorter shelf life than meat because of the moisture and mixed ingredients. Cooked meat, if stored correctly, will last 3-4 days. When you heat it up, make sure it is piping hot.
Seafood must be kept cold. When shopping for seafood use a chiller bag or esky and ask your fishmonger to pack some ice with your purchase. Refrigerate as soon as you get home, stored in a glass or ceramic sealed container. Most fresh seafood is should be consumed within 2-3 days and it can be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost frozen seafood in the fridge, not the bench.
Serve out salad in smaller portions and top up as needed, adding the dressing only when you serve. Salads with dressing generally can't be reused and if you keep extra in the fridge until needed it will stay fresh. Store mixed leaves in an airtight container lined with a paper towel to keep them fresher for longer.
Roast veggies (including potatoes)
Put vegetables (and all other leftovers) into the fridge within two hours after serving. Roast veggies should be ideally consumed within 3-4 days and can be stretched to 1 week if they were refrigerated promptly. You can also freeze them, including potatoes, in airtight containers. Leftover veggies and meat can be quickly whizzed up into a hearty soup if preferred.
Custard and dairy
Keep custards and dairy in the fridge until just before serving and return leftovers to the fridge immediately.
Christmas pudding can be refrigerated for up to three months or stored in the freezer for up to six months.
Cream based dessert should be kept in the fridge until needed and returned back to it immediately afterwards. After two hours at room temperature, desserts are past their best and shouldn’t be eaten. Kept cool, they can last 3-4 days in the fridge or freezer.
Soft cookies are at their best eaten within 2-3 days, before becoming harder. You can store hard cookies in an airtight container with a paper towel to absorb moisture and they can last 2-3 weeks.
Composting your Christmas
Some wastage is hard to avoid, but careful sorting of scraps can ensure nothing edible goes to landfill. Utilising a range of waste streams for food scraps ensures nothing ends up in your kerbside bin. If you have chooks, they often get the pick of the scraps and will be grateful for most things except chicken! Next consider which scraps can be added to your worm farm. Our wriggly friends especially enjoy soft fruits and finely chopped leftovers like salads without dressing.
The Bokashi composting system offers a superb solution for most other types of festive food scraps including leftovers, dairy and meat.
Vegetable scraps, along with paper and cardboard packaging can be added to hot or cold composting systems. A compost bin is also a great place for used partyware like palm leaf plates and wooden cutlery.
We'd love to know how you're having a low waste Christmas dinner this year. Tell us about it in the comments below.